Fruit trees loaded with fruit should be hand thinned to
- obtain large, high quality fruit at harvest;
- allow development of flower buds for next year's crop, thus overcoming the tendency for some fruit trees to bear fruit in alternate years; and
- prevent limb breakage.
Hand thinning of apples should be done within 6 weeks of full bloom or by approximately mid-June. Leave the largest apple in a cluster unless it is damaged. After thinning, the apples should be spaced about 8 to 10 inches apart on the branches. Pears, plums, and apricots should be spaced about 6 to 8 inches apart on the branches.
This article originally appeared in the May 25, 2001 issue, p. 63.